HC Deb 12 July 1976 vol 915 cc30-2
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short Business Statement.

Following the loss of Friday's sitting, the debate on direct elections to the European Assembly was put in place for today but, as shown on the Order Paper, this would come on at a fairly late hour. I understand that it would be for the general convenience and, indeed, more effective, if this debate could come on earlier.

I am therefore arranging for a motion for the Adjournment to be moved at seven o'clock when the issue can be discussed until ten o'clock.

Mr. Peyton

The whole House will be grateful to the Leader of the House for making this statement and for having paid attention to representations by the Opposition on this subject.

May I ask what intentions the Government have with regard to business after 10 p.m.? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is quite a quiverful down on the Order Paper—in case he has forgotten it? Will he say what are his intentions with regard to the Development Land Tax Bill, the Iron and Steel (Amendment) Bill, the Fatal Accidents Bill [Lords] and so on?

Mr. Foot

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, it is not normal in the House to give such long-term indications as those for which the right hon. Gentleman asks. I hope that we can make excellent progress. I hope that the Development Land Tax Bill will be concluded by twelve o'clock. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, we shall do our best and I am sure we shall have assistance generally in getting the matter through. Then we shall proceed to the Iron and Steel (Amendment) Bill, and I hope that the other matters will not be too lengthy.

Mr. Peyton

I am interested to know the right hon. Gentleman's definition of a long-term view. We shall be very interested to see what progress he makes. We have said that we have no desire to obstruct progress of business in the House. Nevertheless, the Government have the habit of putting down late an inordinate volume of indigestible business.

Mr. Foot

I do not think it is indigestible. I am happy to have the right hon. Gentleman's clear assurance that there will be no obstruction. I know that it goes without saying, but I welcome it all the more when the right hon. Gentleman says that he has no intention of obstructing the business.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Lord President clarify the situation? As the debate at seven o'clock is to be on the Adjournment, I take it that it would be out of order to raise the substantive motion on direct elections to the European Assembly, which is on the Order Paper, and the amendment. Is there no way in which my right hon. Friend can bring forward that business so that the motion and the amendment to it can be moved?

Mr. Foot

The difficulty about doing that is that we would have to lose the intervening business, which I am sure my hon. Friend would deplore as much as I would.

Mr. Marten

If we had reached the motion on the Order Paper on direct elections to the European Assembly we would have debated it for a long time. Under the new arrangements we are limited to three hours. Is that not rather a pity?

Mr. Foot

I know that the debate will be earlier, but debates are no worse if they are sometimes succint.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

May I point out to hon. Members that there are more statements to be made. I shall allow one more supplementary question on this statement.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that during the debate on direct elections in March, the Prime Minister said that he wanted the view and the discussion of the House in time for the summit meeting? As the summit meeting is taking place this afternoon, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there are arrangements to keep the Prime Minister advised of the views of the House?

Mr. Foot

Of course, the Prime Minister will be advised. We wished to have this debate earlier than last Friday, when we put it down on the Order Paper, but we discovered also that representations had been made that we could not have had a debate earlier in the week when many hon. Members—hon. Members of all political views and on both sides of the House—who wished to take part were either at the European Assembly or were engaged in work on the Scrutiny Committee, and it was in response to representations from the House that the subject was put down for debate last Friday.